We wanted to know what cheap reputation companies do. So we did a little research...
In an effort to better understand certain aspects of online reputation methods and techniques, we often review the efforts of competitors.
A reputable reputation management company will operate within the parameters of two key concepts: transparency and ethics.
When individuals or businesses opt for cheap reputation management solutions, these two parameters often fall short.
In this case study, we looked at efforts made by a cheap online reputation management company for an aerospace executive who is experiencing problems with a Ripoff Report listing and Complaints Board post on the first page of his search results.
Summary of Findings
This is a study of how an inexpensive reputation management firm attempted to remove the ripoff report. Note: This was not Reputation X.
- What worked: ComplaintsBoard.com was removed.
- What didn't work: RipOffReport.com was not removed. It got worse
- How it was done: Cheap, thin content. Free links.
This case study explains some of the mechanics behind a cheap reputation management program. It consists of the removal of ComplaintsBoard.com posts and the suppression (pushing down) of RipOffReport.com.
Ripoff Report is being suppressed because it cannot be removed under normal conditions. The reputation firm whose project we are following has moved quickly but with low-quality content and development.
They have not yet been successful with the ROR removal, but may be in the future. Based on the low-quality effort, we do not believe legal means are being used against RipoffReport at this time.
We do not believe the approach the other firm is using will work for this aerospace executive because the domain authority of ROR is too high to be suppressed by low authority (low Domain Authority) content.
We will continue to monitor their progress and update this post as necessary.
- The search phrase is English
- The search phrase has a Moz difficulty of "non-competitive"
- There is a Grepwords volume of only 30.
- There are 5110 results for the client's name, with quotes, in Google results
The project appears to have begun at the end of August. At this writing, it has been six weeks since the start of the project.
Remove Complaints Board
The first step the online reputation company took was to remove complaintsboard.com from search results. This took about five weeks. ComplaintsBoard.com can often be removed, whereas RipoffReport.com cannot normally be removed at the source. In the case of ROR, it must usually be delisted/de-indexed from search results directly through communication with Google. So, the first step taken was the initiation of the complaintsboard.com removal.
While Complaints Board was in process, the reputation team began building web properties in an attempt to suppress RipOffReport.com. This was done inexpensively with low-quality web content and fast development. The web properties developed were of the following types:
The LinkedIn profile already existed. It does not appear to have been changed. According to Moz, there are zero links to the client's LinkedIn profile. But the domain authority (DA) of the site is 100, of course.
Fake Company Website
The company website for the executive was already in existence before the project began. The official company website has a page with the executive's name. The site has only 15 referring domains pointing to it from free bookmarking websites, and the page within the site that is returned in search results has no links to it, according to Moz.
The client had no Facebook profile. But on October 1, 30 days after the project started, the low-cost reputation management company added one. To date, there are four posts, all of which were made on the day the Facebook page was created, October 1st. The posts are:
- Updated Facebook profile picture
- A photograph of a sunset
- Four WordPress posts
- A post about the client that links to a page on Spokeo that contains information about other people who have the same name. Being Facebook, the link is NOFOLLOW.
The Facebook "About" page has text that was reused from at least three other places on the web. So, there is a text duplication issue. In fact, the Facebook "About" page does not come up in search results at all, as it has never been cached by Google.
The Facebook page has no links to it, according to Moz. But the Domain Authority of Facebook is 100.
RipoffReport.com is the fourth item in search results and appears to have started in position six. The report is about the client and his company. It claims to be about a scam the gentleman originated, but there are a number of comments that the Ripoff Report is at least inaccurate, if not completely false.
There are zero links to the Ripoff Report page listing the client, but ROR has a Domain Authority of 82. This was good news as it would have made the project even more difficult if Ripoff Report had incoming links to the bad review page.
The client has a press release that was republished on StreetInsider.com. The press release was dated about ten days after the project began and contains the client's name in the headline, and two times in approximately 500 words. The press release was distributed using PRWEB. It contains no images and the only link is to the original PRWEB placement of the release on their site.
There are no links to the page with the press release, but there are thousands to the StreetInsider in general and it has a domain authority of 74.
The aforementioned press release appearing on StreetInsider.com appears in search results below the Street Insider reprint. There is a single link at the end of the press release with a NOFOLLOW redirect to a WordPress website created with the same URL as the company website but with the .net TLD (top-level domain). More on that site below.
PRWEB has a gazillion links to it and a DA of 92. But the page with the press release has no Page Authority and no links.
Company domain with .NET TLD
The online reputation company used a free WordPress template to create a site using the same URL naming structure as the parent company owned and operated by the client. The site is thin, uses stock photos, and has few words. But it was created and placed online very quickly.
The company site has no DA, no PA, and no links, according to Moz. However, a search using Majestic SEO shows it has 37 referring IPs. We dug a bit deeper to discover they are all free bookmarking sites such as (partial list below):
All of the above domains have a Majestic trust score of 20 or below. There are only two variations of anchor text: one is the web address, and the other is the client's name. One higher trust exception seems to be a listing from Best of the Web (BOTW).
Exact match domain
An exact match domain website was developed with the domain structure www.theXXXXXXXXX.com (x's added to maintain the client's privacy). Instead of an exact match, the word "the" was placed before the name.
The exact match domain has a similar backlink profile to the Company Name with .NET TLD listed above, except that it does not include a directory link from Best of the Web (BOTW).
The Spokeo.com listing of people with similar names is listed at the bottom of search results.
Other pages created for the client include:
There is a white pages listing.
An article about how to grow a business was placed on Feedster. The "author" was a staff member at Feedster. It was also featured as a Feedster "staff pick." This is pretty interesting, though, because there are two versions of the page.
The original version of the page had the client's name in the headline (an H1 tag). The name (search phrase) was also included a few times in the last paragraph of the article. Because of the high DA of Feedster, the content rose to the first page of search results when the client's name was Googled. But here is the really interesting bit - the page changed since it was crawled by Google.
The current version of the Feedster story had no mention of the search phrase the client's name, in the headline or in the body of the article. Why would it change in such a way? We're sure it will drop from Google results as soon as it is crawled again now that the content has been edited. We're just wondering how it got there in the first place.
The thinnest slice of content exists here. It's so small I can't believe I've given it two sentences already.
Amazon author page
The firm set up an Amazon.com author page in order to leverage the strength of the parent domain. There are two "books" available, though not really. They are "out of print". This is a pretty interesting way of getting some Google shelf space, though.
The reputation management firm set up a YouTube channel with the client's name. On it is posted a single video, a "whiteboard" animation about something unrelated. Software like Videoscribe was most likely used to create it.
There is a xxxxxxxx.wordpress.com site about the client. It has no content to speak of at this time.
Why We Conducted This Study
- Understanding competitors: As part of our commitment to staying at the forefront of reputation management practices, we frequently assess the strategies employed by other players in the field.
- A glimpse into low-cost solutions: Cheap online reputation management services often promise enticing results at a fraction of the price. We were curious to discern the actual outcomes when such services are put to the test.
Cheap Reputation Efforts = Cheap Results
The low-cost online reputation management company that the client used has built about three sites: one Amazon profile, a press release, a WordPress blog, and a YouTube channel. They've built no significant links, nor placed any truly compelling content on known sites, with the exception of Feedster. The links they've built are old-fashioned bookmark sites on free directories. The content on all but the exact match domain is thin to non-existent. The 4600 words placed on the exact match domain equals more words than all other content created. Apart from the Complaints Board removal, there has been no significant forward momentum. We will keep an eye on these SERPs and let you know if anything changes.
As of now, Ripoff Report has moved up (not down) from position six one week ago, to position four today.
Cheap reputation management FAQs
What are the drawbacks of working with cheap reputation management firms?
Cheap reputation management firms rarely deliver on their promises. In fact, they usually make the problem worse. We saw that in the example detailed in this blog. Instead of removing a Ripoff Report, a cheap reputation management company actually caused it to rise in search results.
What are some of the risks with working with cheap reputation management companies?
The quality of work will not exist when working with cheap reputation management companies. They usually don't build any significant links, nor place any truly compelling content on known sites. The links tend to be old-fashioned bookmark sites on free directories. Content is thin to non-existent.
Can a Ripoff Report be removed?
RipoffReport.com cannot normally be removed at the source. In the case of ROR, it must usually be delisted/de-indexed from search results directly through communication with Google.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management agency based in California. Kent has over 15 years of experience with online reputation management, Wikipedia editing, review management, and strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics, and is an expert witness for reputation-related legal matters.